MEW And The Glass Handed Kites (Columbia)
Lets deal with the obvious issues first. Theres the bands name, for a kick off, disconcertingly similar to that of a certain British prog-pop trio. Next, consider the sleeve art, which suggests an outtake from the Queen II cover shoot squeezed through Photoshops Dali filter. Finally, theres the issue of song titles such as Saviours Of Jazz Ballet (Fear Me, December) and The Seething Rain Weeps For You (Uda Pruda). What exactly do you think Mew sound like?
Its probably not a great shock to discover that this Danish quartet sound superficially like Muse, but their music is lighter, fluffier and less intense than that with which the Devonians lay waste to stadia. There are no side-long suites in evidence here, but most of the tracks flow seamlessly into each other youre more likely to be jarred by silence in the middle of songs than between them.
And The Glass Handed Kites isnt a work of sustained brilliance Chinaberry Tree still sounds like a random, angular jumble of sound to me, rather than a proper song, and the clanging guitars of A Dark Design suggest a band of inspiration-starved My Bloody Valentine copyists. But J Mascis brings some craggy vocal authority to the chiming, celestial Why Are You Looking Grave?, ostensibly throw-away bridges such as Fox Cub and Small Ambulance are invested with as much care and attention as the longer songs. Even at their most ostensibly Muse-ian the likes of Apocalypso and Special are imbued with the kind of twisty-turny tricksiness that their more famous counterparts would trample underfoot. Theres the slightest of reggae hints to An Envoy To The Open Fields unsquare dance, Mascis again hauling himself out of the primeval ooze to contribute disgruntled backing vocals. And though its easy to poke fun at their dark, thickly impenetrable lyrics, the albums acapella closing lines, Stay with me/Dont want to be alone seems to humanise everything thats gone before it.
And The Glass Handed Kites is a subtler, more inventive work than Muse have ever turned in. If that sounds like the kind of album you think you need, dive in.